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ISSUE 117 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/10/2003

Professor gives name to glacier in Antarctica

By Maren Daniel
Staff Writer

Friday, October 10, 2003

Physics and environmental studies professor Robert Jacobel has a way of putting St. Olaf on the map -- literally. The United States Board on Geographic Names recently named a 30-mile long glacier on the coast of Antarctica after Jacobel.

"Most of the glaciers in Antarctica are named for guys who worked down there at the turn of the century," said Jacobel, who is both surprised and pleased to receive the honor in his lifetime. "The Board on Geographic Names looked for people who’ve made contributions, published papers, done research."

The United States Board on Geographic Names, which sets standards of geographic features to be used on maps and federal charts throughout the United States, accepts proposals from any person or organization for new names or name changes. The proposals are then reviewed and a decision is made in accordance with a set of guidelines and policies.

Jacobel’s name was proposed to the board by the United States Geological Survey, another government group affiliated with the Secretary of the Interior. Theodore Scambos of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. and Mark Fahnestock of the University of New Hampshire, two researchers who have worked with Jacobel over the last decade, have glaciers next to his, named for themselves.

Jacobel, who came to St. Olaf in 1976 after earning degrees from Berkeley and Iowa State, received this honor after 15 years of glacial research in Antarctica. He has taken six trips to Antarctica since the 1980s to study how ice deforms and flows in response to climate change and global warming.

In conducting this research, Jacobel used satellite pictures and the images of a deep ice-penetrating radar system designed by himself and a group of students.

Jacobel has not been able to take students with him while he has conducted research in Antarctica.

"The problem with Antarctica is that it interferes with the semesters," said Jacobel. "The summer season in Antarctica is from the end of October to January. That doesn’t work out with fall semester and interim."

Jacobel has, however, been able to take students to Sweden, Alaska, and the Cascade Mountains in Washington. Along with Environmental Studies instructor Brian Welch, Jacobel leads the Center for Geophysical Studies of Ice and Climate (CEGSIC). CEGSIC is based in St. Olaf’s physics department and has students participate in its projects. Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, these CEGSIC research projects have the same goal as Jacobel’s work in Antarctica – to understand the response of ice masses to global warming and other climate changes.

Student members of the research team include Erin Peterson ’03, Matt Bills ’04, Logan Smith ’04, Mike Helgen ’06, Kieran Cofell-Dwyer ’06, and Knut Christiansen ’05. The team is currently involved in hydrologic studies of South Cascade Glacier in Washington. It is also studying Storglaciären Glacier in Sweden along with colleagues from Portland (Oregon) State University and the University of Stockholm.

A reception will be held for Jacobel on October 10 at 2:30 p.m. in the Science Center Foyer.

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